10 years ago: Bishop Olmsted reflected upon past, challenges ahead

The new bishop of Phoenix made his local debut Nov. 25, 2003 before a throng of television, radio and newspaper reporters eager to learn more about the bishop from the Diocese of Wichita. (Robert DeFrancesco/CATHOLIC SUN)
The new bishop of Phoenix made his local debut Nov. 25, 2003 before a throng of television, radio
and newspaper reporters eager to learn more
about the bishop from the Diocese of Wichita. (Robert DeFrancesco/CATHOLIC SUN)

Today is is the 10th anniversary of Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted’s appointment to the Diocese of Phoenix from the Diocese of Wichita, Kan. The bishop was interviewed when he returned to Wichita by the Catholic Advance, newspaper of the Diocese of Wichita, in November 2003 after his appointment was announced. Here is the interview:

Catholic Advance: When did you first find out that you were being considered for appointment to another diocese?

Bishop Olmsted: I got a call a week ago from the (papal) nuncio saying that the Holy Father wanted me to be bishop of Phoenix. That was the very first I had heard about it. That’s the usual way.

CA: Why do you believe you were asked to fill the vacancy there?

Bishop Olmsted: That’s the $64,000 question. I really don’t know why I was asked. I think it would be linked with the fact that the Diocese of Wichita is a really good diocese. And because of that, it looks like I’m doing OK as a bishop. I think the synod was really good for us.With that we can move forward confidently. We’ve had a wonderful Natural Family Planning growth throughout the diocese. So I think one of the key things is that it’s really a good diocese, the heritage I came in and became a part of continues to go forward. What is happening in Wichita has much more to do with everybody else than it has to do with me. I think (the new bishop) had to be somebody who knew Spanish fairly well and who had somewhat of an acquaintance with various cultures. And I suppose someone who has had to adapt to a number of different kinds of situations. They probably wanted somebody who was already a bishop and who had experience of administration as a bishop.

CA:What is your impression of the Diocese of Phoenix?

Bishop Olmsted: It’s teeming with new growth and new life. There is a constant flow of new people coming into the Valley there. I see a city and a region and a Church that is growing very rapidly. It’s a Church where there is a strong Hispanic presence and a large number of immigrants coming into the area — also immigrants from other parts of the world. It’s very Catholic in that sense of richness of the Catholic diversity. I know that Life Teen began there. And Life Teen is one of the most successful programs of evangelization of our youth. So that impresses me very much and I look forward to getting to know that better.

CA:What do you see as your greatest challenges in Phoenix?

Bishop Olmsted:  I think the biggest challenge always is to help us grow in holiness and to deepen our confidence that we can have a closer relationship with Jesus. A second one: when you have so many people coming in, you have to work for unity in a sense that you really work together — you don’t just live side-by-side with tolerance or without fighting, but you really reach out.

CA: What do you want to tell the people of the Diocese of Phoenix?

Bishop Olmsted:  I suppose if I would bring it into one thing it would be Chapter 12, verse 2 of Hebrews, “Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus who inspires and perfects our faith.” I think we can be distracted in our present modern world and by worries. Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus knowing that He will inspire us and He will bring to completion His work in us.

CA:Will you finally learn how to play golf while in Phoenix?

Bishop Olmsted:  (Laughing) I probably will be able to see more baseball games. They play baseball, I think, year-round out there. I have no plans at this stage to learn how to play golf.